It’s hard to believe that September is almost upon us and that, at least here in London, the leaves are already starting to fall! I still associate September with the excitement of back-to-school shopping, even though it has now been more years than I would like to count since the last September in which I was last headed back to school. September’s association with shopping for many of us makes it a great month to think about the impact of clothing and shopping habits, and particularly about the prevalent culture of throwaway fashion. I therefore was delighted to hear that Oxfam is sponsoring Second Hand September, a 30-day no new clothes challenge. I encourage anyone interested to join in Second Hand September. Believe me, if I can manage no new or second hand clothes for nearly ten months now, you can manage no new stuff for a month!
Those interested in participating in Second Hand September can find more information and take the pledge at oxfam.org.uk/secondhand. The pledge is a little less hardcore than my No New Nothing because you can still buy used clothing items from secondhand stores. You can participate without taking the pledge of course, but if you sign up with Oxfam they will send you advice on to help use reuse, rewear and recycle.
I considered but ultimately decided not to allow myself to buy secondhand items as part of my No New Nothing year because, while my own challenge was driven in part by concerns about the environmental impact of my shopping habits, I also wanted to address my own issues with generally having too much stuff. I felt like I needed to be cut off from the temptation to buy stuff just because it was cute or cheap, regardless whether it was new or secondhand. However, I think buying secondhand is a terrific way to address the environmental side of my concerns about our consumer culture. Before doing this year of No New Nothing, I’m not sure I would have considered it feasible to buy only secondhand clothing, but one thing I have learned from this year is how unimportant to my life new clothes actually are. Once I broke the habit of buying and realized that being ‘up to date’ on fashion wasn’t really important or meaningful to my life (or even really something anyone noticed about me), it seems like buying only (or at least mainly) secondhand could be a great way to save money and reduce harmful waste. After my year of No New Nothing ends in November, I plan to start buying mainly secondhand (although I’ll of course continue to buy things like underwear and tennis shoes brand spanking new!).